the discomfort of holy week
In a preliminary text of Pope Francis’ general audience, he tells us that “Holy Week challenges us to step outside of ourselves…” (h/t The Deacon’s Bench). Well, that was how my Holy Week started, but I was challenged to step outside myself: I was asked to do a reading at Palm Sunday Mass at St. Paul Inside the Walls.
Dave, the sacristan, was scrambling since none of the usual readers were there. I groaned and protested. I hate reading out loud. I am slightly dyslexic, and while it doesn’t bother me when I read to myself, it is absolute torture to read aloud. I’ve been a lector before. I know I can do it as long as I read slowly; I just prefer read the readings in the comfort of my pew. I told Dave I would read if he couldn’t find anyone else and as long as it was a short reading with no hard words. Since I mentioned being forced to step outside myself, I’m sure you can guess that I ended up doing a reading. But not only that… Yeahhh… It being Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, I was also roped into reading one of the parts for the Passion. Ugh!
I read the part of P-Peter/Pilate/Person. (I was so grateful I didn’t have to read N-Narrator!) It was a very different experience for me, since I usually participate in the reading of the Passion as C-Crowd. Elizabeth Scalia wrote an interesting column at First Things on Tuesday about missing out on reading the part of C-Crowd:
Without our collective calls for Barabbas, for the Crucifixion of Christ, and for Jesus to save himself, we lost an opportunity to be appalled by ourselves. We were denied a chance to once more glean some sound theological, spiritual, and personal insights into how often we choose what is worst, rather than best, for us; the assist that we give to the destruction of the Body of Christ when we advance the brokenness of the world; the lazy service we give to our cynicism.
Yes, I know, we’re all supposed to feel very good about ourselves as beloved children of God, but it seems to me that on this Sunday entering into Holy Week, we ought to be allowed to acknowledge what miserable bastards we all can be, and feel a little lousy about it, at least for the length of a liturgy. (Read the full article here.)
I may have missed hearing myself call for Christ to be crucified on Sunday, but I was still appalled when I heard my voice proclaim Peter’s words of devotion to Christ, followed quickly by denial. I was reminded how often I follow the same pattern. The words that came from my mouth continued to jar me, from Peter’s denial to Pilate’s complacency to the first thief’s sneering. And then I read the part of the repentant thief. I too deserve the same punishment as the thief, and I echoed his plea for mercy: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Fr. Paul read Christ’s response, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” I nearly lost it right then and there. I may have been disturbed and uncomfortable with most of the words I read, as I usually am on Passion Sunday, but I experienced mercy and redemption in a way I wasn’t able to as a voice of C-Crowd.
I would be lying if I said that I am looking forward to the other challenges this Holiest of Weeks might hold for me. I’m not looking forward to them; I don’t like being challenged to move beyond the comfort my little zone, with its well-established boundaries and abundant consolations for my needy ego. But I know those challenges come with a promise that beyond the immediate pain and torment is paradise, where I won’t ever have to read out loud again! That is what I am looking forward to this Holy Week!